The Calgary Stampede is the pinnacle of rodeo competition and at the youth level, the Calgary Stampede 4-H Rodeo is just as special for the next generation of future rodeo stars.
The 18th Calgary Stampede 4-H Rodeo was hosted Aug. 22 and 23 at the Agrium Western Event Centre in Calgary and when the final buzzer sounded, a Cranbrook cowgirl was crowned champion.
Atop her horse ‘Diesel,’ Cranbrook’s Taylor Holt, 16, claimed first place in Senior High Point competition at the annual youth rodeo event.
“I was shocked,” Holt said Wednesday afternoon. “I didn’t think I’d be winning the High Point. The points add up through the two days and I wasn’t really keeping track of them. I was shocked when I won the ring for High Point.
“It was pretty amazing to experience going there and to compete on the [Calgary Stampede] grounds. I didn’t think I’d be winning it, getting the all-around or even winning any events. But I guess practice pays off.”
With her victory, Holt was presented with a pair of coveted Calgary Stampede 4-H Rodeo belt buckles — one each for her victories in goat tying and breakaway roping — as well as a championship ring for the overall High Point title.
“It’s definitely not something you can just buy in a store,” Holt said of her newly acquired buckles. “You have to earn it.”
In goat tying, Holt crushed the competition, roping her billy in 8.46 seconds, nearly two seconds quicker than second-place finisher Sydney Vanden Berg (10.33 seconds).
“For all rodeo events, smooth is faster than just trying to rush through,” Holt said.
“For my [goat-tying] run, I just tried to stay focused…A smooth dismount and trying not to rush through my tie while making it all flow together.
In breakaway roping, Holt was once again dominant, capturing her calf in 5.7 seconds. She was one of only two competitors to successfully snag her beast, with Jonathon Wrubleski finishing second with a time of 7.12 seconds.
For the Cranbrook native, her focus remains largely the same, regardless of what event she’s competing in.
“The same concept of being smooth [is important],” Holt said. “For breakaway roping, it’s better to have a good shot. You’re not just going to chuck your rope out there whenever the cow’s in front of you.
“You should be able to see your calf through your rope [as you’re swinging it] and then it’s right there instead of way out in front of you or way too close.”
In addition to top prizes in goat tying and breakaway roping, Holt claimed third in pole bending (24.95 seconds) and fourth in steer daubing (2.16 seconds). She rounded out her weekend with a sixth-place finish in barrel racing (18.87 seconds).
This was the very first 4-H competition for Holt, who, along with her younger sister Colby, has been training locally with Jody Savage.
Colby also attended the Calgary Stampede 4-H Rodeo and found success of her own, finishing third in Intermediate High Point.
A freshly-minted 4-H champ, Holt has been working on her rodeo skills for about four years and kicked started her summer by riding at the Kids’ Fun Days, put on by the Pineridge Roping Club.
“My focus for rodeo is team roping, I’m a header,” Holt said. “I hope to continue on with that and get better with working my horse.”
While she might be a few years young for a full-on ride at the Calgary Stampede, Holt said she’s set on competing in as many rodeo events as she can in the coming years.
If she continues to work hard and claim buckles the way she did this weekend, perhaps Holt will find The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth well within sight of her and her rope.